What Exactly Did Revd Randall Say That Was So Extreme?
Ever since The Revd Dr Bernard Randall came into the public sphere most have never read what caused his firing.
If you only read the secular papers or other media, you would think that he had used his position as the Chaplain of Trent College, an Anglican educational institution of long-standing, to foment rebellion. When you read his actual words, you will be struck by how inoffensive and kind, yet clear, his address happened to be.
What follows are selective quotes from the 2019 sermon in question. The full address can be found at: www.christianconcern.com.
“Now when ideologies compete, we should not descend into abuse, we should respect the beliefs of others, even where we disagree. Above all, we need to treat each other with respect, not personal attacks – that’s what loving your neighbour as yourself means. By all means discuss, have a reasoned debate about beliefs, but while it’s OK to try and persuade each other, no one should be told they must accept an ideology. Love the person, even where you profoundly dislike the ideas. Don’t denigrate a person simply for having opinions and beliefs which you don’t share.
“There has been another set of competing ideals in the news recently. You may have heard of the protests outside a Birmingham primary school over the teachings of an LGBT friendly “No Outsiders” programme. In a mostly Muslim community, this has been sensitive, because many parents feel that their children are being pushed to accept ideas which run counter to Islamic moral values. Many in that community are concerned, even angry, that their children are having an agenda, an ideology pushed on them, which is in conflict with their religion.
“And in our own school community, I have been asked about a similar thing – this is one of the requested topics, and the question was put to me in a very particular way – “How come we are told we have to accept all this LGBT stuff in a Christian school?” I thought that was a very intelligent and thoughtful way of asking about the conflict of values, rather than asking which is right, and which is wrong.
So my answer is this: there are some aspects of the Educate and Celebrate programme which are simply factual – there are same-sex attracted people in our society, there are people who experience gender dysphoria, and so on. There are some areas where the two sets of values overlap – no one should be discriminated against simply for who he or she is: that’s a Christian value, based in loving our neighbours as ourselves, and God making humankind in his image, male and female, and himself loving everyone equally. All these things should be accepted straightforwardly by all of us, and it’s right that equalities law reflects that.
But there are areas where the two sets of ideas are in conflict, and in these areas you do not have to accept the ideas and ideologies of LGBT activists. Indeed, since Trent exists “to educate boys and girls according to the Protestant and Evangelical principles of the Church of England,” anyone who tells you that you must accept contrary principles is jeopardising the school’s charitable status, and therefore it’s very existence. You should no more be told you have to accept LGBT ideology, than you should be told you must be in favour of Brexit, or must be Muslim – to both of which I’m sure most of you would quite rightly object.
There are several areas where many or most Christians (and for that matter people of other faiths too), will be in disagreement with LGBT activists, and where you must make up your own mind.
So it is perfectly legitimate to think that marriage should only properly be understood as being a lifelong exclusive union of a man and a woman; indeed, that definition is written into English law. You may perfectly properly believe that, as an ideal, sexual activity belongs only within such marriage, and that therefore any other kind is morally problematic. That is the position of all the major faith groups – though note that it doesn’t apply only to same-sex couples. And it is a belief based, not only on scripture, but on a highly positive view of marriage as the building block of a society where people of all kinds flourish, and on recognising that there are many positive things in life more important than sex, if only we’d let them be. This viewpoint is recognised by many people as extremely liberating. And it’s an ethical position which could also be arrived at independently of any religious text, I think.
And you might reasonably notice that some LGBT activists will happily lie about gender identity being a legally protected characteristic (which it isn’t), and from that observation wonder whether there are other areas where their relationship to truth is looser than might be ideal. But by way of contrast, no one has the right to tell you that you must lie about these matters, to say things you sincerely believe to be false – that is the tactic of totalitarianism and dictatorship. On a more positive note, Christians will want to have a discussion about human identity which focusses as most important on the things we all have in common, rather than increasingly long lists of things which might divide us. At the same time, the Christian concern for truth will be trying to distinguish between false stereotypes and those areas of human interaction which are assisted by the practical wisdom of past generations.
You might be concerned that if you take the religious view on these matters you will be attacked, and accused of homophobia and the like. But remember that religious belief is just as protected in law as sexual orientation, and no one has the right to discriminate against you or be abusive towards you. Remember too that “phobia” words have a strict sense of extreme or irrational fear or dislike, like arachnophobia, fear of spiders, or triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number thirteen – well there’s nothing extreme about sharing your view with the Church of England, established by law, and of the majority of the world’s population who belong to these faiths. Nor is it irrational to hold these views, since they can be based both on secular reasoning and on scriptures – and if, on other grounds, you are sure that the scriptures reflect the mind of God, then they provide the very best reasons possible for anything. But “homophobia” and “transphobia” have come to be used in a looser sense to mean often simply “you disagree with me and I’m going to refuse to listen to you, and shame you to shut you down.”